No adverse association between exercise exposure and diffuse myocardial fibrosis in male endurance athletes

Sci Rep. 2024 Mar 19;14(1):6581. doi: 10.1038/s41598-024-57233-5.


The potential association between endurance exercise and myocardial fibrosis is controversial. Data on exercise exposure and diffuse myocardial fibrosis in endurance athletes are scarce and conflicting. We aimed to investigate the association between exercise exposure and markers of diffuse myocardial fibrosis by cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) in endurance athletes. We examined 27 healthy adult male competitive endurance athletes aged 41 ± 9 years and 16 healthy controls in a cross sectional study using 3 Tesla CMR including late gadolinium enhancement and T1 mapping. Athletes reported detailed exercise history from 12 years of age. Left ventricular total mass, cellular mass and extracellular mass were higher in athletes than controls (86 vs. 58 g/m2, 67 vs. 44 g/m2 and 19 vs. 13 g/m2, all p < 0.01). Extracellular volume (ECV) was lower (21.5% vs. 23.8%, p = 0.03) and native T1 time was shorter (1214 ms vs. 1268 ms, p < 0.01) in the athletes. Increasing exercise dose was independently associated with shorter native T1 time (regression coefficient - 24.1, p < 0.05), but expressed no association with ECV. Our results indicate that diffuse myocardial fibrosis has a low prevalence in healthy male endurance athletes and do not indicate an adverse dose-response relationship between exercise and diffuse myocardial fibrosis in healthy athletes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Cardiomyopathies* / pathology
  • Child
  • Contrast Media*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fibrosis
  • Gadolinium
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Cine
  • Male
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Stroke Volume
  • Ventricular Function, Left


  • Contrast Media
  • Gadolinium